It seemed significant, and somewhat pointed, that a day since Scott Parker was fired, in part at least, for refusing to play Happy Families, the message displayed on the big screens and reiterated on the front speakers kicking off was ‘Together anything is possible’, Bournemouth’s motto en route from League Two to the Premier League. A stubborn and courageous display to earn a point against a painfully brutal Wolves side certainly seemed to support this feeling.
A degree of apprehension given the way they were mauled by Liverpool was understandable, but they awoke to prevent a Wolves side who have their own issues to deal with. Bruno Lage’s side were booed by their supporters at the final whistle.
In fairness, such a scenario would have been avoided had Raúl Jiménez not been ruled out after he was slipped one-on-one with Bournemouth keeper Neto with 12 minutes remaining or if Daniel Podence’s diving header had not had not been cleared from the line by returning Bournemouth captain Lloyd Kelly. In the first half, Wolves record signing Matheus Nunes hit the crossbar and after the break Jiménez also dropped a header off target.
Parker’s sacking 26 days into the season inevitably drew attention to Bournemouth in the build-up to this game, but in the end it was unclear which club would find themselves in a more difficult situation. For Bournemouth, suddenly four points from their first five games seems like a reasonable return, especially given their opponents in August, but Wolves, who last tasted a league win in April, remain in the relegation zone. Towards the end of that stalemate, the agitated away support chanted for Lage to make further substitutions.
Wolves’ problems are clear – they have scored two league goals this season – but Lage wants the supporters to stick with him and his players after a summer of change. He has revamped his squad and formation and insists there are positive signs for Wolves, who host Southampton on Saturday.
“The way we create so many chances, they [the fans] should be frustrated like me, but confident about the future,” Lage said. “I believe the way we play the goals will come. We work so hard to build this team. It’s a matter of patience and time. I believe a lot in our work. We didn’t start so well but I think we will finish in a good position this year.
The 9-0 gutting at Liverpool on Saturday was Parker’s last game in charge, his post-match comments in which he again said his side were ill-equipped to deal with the rise in class – and suggested that greater defeats were in sight. – breaking the camel’s back in an increasingly tense relationship with the hierarchy. In the end, it was the club that blinked first, as Parker’s veiled messages grew less and less subtle.
If Parker felt set to fail, his sacking offered interim head coach Gary O’Neil, who joined the club in February last year as first-team coach under Jonathan Woodgate , a sort of hospital pass.
O’Neil led the side alongside Under-21 manager Shaun Cooper and assistant Tommy Elphick, who steered Bournemouth to promotion to the Premier League in 2015.
“It happened pretty quickly,” O’Neil said. “I haven’t really had time to breathe or assess where we are, but what I asked the boys to do, they produced commitment, bravery and togetherness in a difficult time. We will look to improve, but starting from where we are is a real advantage for us.
Lage put on a frustrated figure throughout, with fourth official Tim Robinson reminding Lage of the parameters of his technical area as the Wolves head coach frantically waved his players up.
Nunes came closest to scoring after reading Pedro Neto’s layoff and Jiménez forced Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto, one of Anfield’s four changes, to a fingertip save after encountering a cross from Nélson Semedo. Bournemouth occasionally burst through the lively Marcus Tavernier, a summer signing from Middlesbrough, but Wolves dominated.
Bournemouth started the second half with flying colors and seemed to dampen Wolves’ initial enthusiasm. Dominic Solanke put a header on target and soon after O’Neil was down on his knees as another chance presented itself. Less than an hour from the end, Rúben Neves, even if he is capable of performing spectacularly, was content to aim just after halfway when he had time in front of him. Neto fired a shot against the side netting and Gonçalo Guedes fired wide. Shortly after away support had their voices heard, Lage introduced Adama Traore and Podence from the bench.
Then Jiménez blew his big chance.
Bournemouth win a point but Wolves’ Bruno Lage sees his side booed